So I got my May brain MRI a few weeks early, yesterday. Results this morning. In the image above, focus your attention on the large white blotch from the November scan (left), which was the area of bleeding that necessitated some “touch-up” gamma knife surgery. Note how the spot is barely visible on yesterday’s scan (right). This is good!
The reason for my haste in having the scan was that on Tuesday night, right when I was getting ready for bed, I suddenly felt very dizzy. I couldn’t move my head too quickly or I’d start feeling seasick. I also had a headache. When I woke up the next morning (before 6 a.m.), I also vomited.
So I activated the usual phone chain, starting with a call to Dr P’s service. I got a bleary sounding call back from Dr P in minutes, who said I’d need to have an MRI immediately. Later talked with Nurse Practitioner A who works with Dr K, and they booked me for an MRI at 3:30 p.m. I was super uncomfortable, and asked whether it couldn’t be done sooner in the ER, only to learn that MRI is not standard practice in the ER, that I’d only get a CT scan there. Also, I learned that in a battle between the oncologist and the neurosurgeon, the neuro gets priority in terms of MRI scheduling. 3:30 it was.
I hunkered down in bed for most of the day (coincidentally and very luckily for me, the day of the week J works from home), sleeping off and on. They’d told me to take some leftover Decadron prophylactically, but somehow I was still able to doze. Decadron also makes me ravenous, so when J went out to run an errand, I asked him to fetch me my favorite slice from the pizzeria, which is covered with fresh arugula. (It seemed like a good idea at the time.)
In the afternoon, I took a shower, spotted by J so I wouldn’t fall. We took a cab to the cancer center, me sucking on Jolly Ranchers in an effort not to hurl. Success.
When we got to the cancer center I got in a wheelchair. The guy in charge of them tried to steer us to a smaller one, and when I got in the one we’d chosen, I saw why. It was EXTRA EXTRA WIDE. Hard to get through doorways and frankly not that comfortable for me. It was the linebacker model, I guess. I was half bemused, half annoyed by J’s wheelchair-driving ineptitude, but ultimately, grateful I haven’t really spent much time in them for him to have much practice.
My stomach had started churning again while the nurse prepped me for the MRI. I took deep breaths and willed myself not to need to vomit for the half hour I’d be flat inside the tube. Somehow, I managed to stay calm. I don’t know how I did it. I’d planned some visualizations to pass the time, but, perhaps because I was too worried about the circumstances of the scan, the insanely loud and varied noises of the machine interrupted my every attempt to visualize anything. Even “whirled peas.” (Given the state of my stomach, that would have been an extra poor choice.) So I just breathed. And waited for status reports via the speaker. 21 minutes to go. 15 minutes to go. And finally, five minutes.
I was still feeling green around the gills when we came out of the cancer center and climbed into a cab to head home, where J’s parents were waiting with the boys – and J still had to cook the labor-intensive stir fry we’d planned to cook in our weekly meal plan, unscheduled MRIs be damned, because I’m a stickler for not letting the boys down, even when I am down for the count. I’m pretty convinced a home-cooked meal can go a long way to making things feel normal… even when I’m not at the table to eat with them.
The cab ride through early rush hour traffic proceeded well at first. I kept my head down looking at my phone, because raising my head caused more dizziness. I looked up when we were approaching the Brooklyn Bridge and I knew I was not going to be okay. I also knew there was nowhere to pull over. I produced the two plastic shopping bags from my purse and stretched them open just in time. The pizza, it turned out, had not been a good idea. I was so, so glad J had suggested I bring those bags.
I tied the bags shut and carefully held them away from any upholstery, and after drinking some water, I apologized to the driver – who had no idea I had just puked. I mean, I’ve always been pretty discreet about it, on the occasions when I’ve gotten too drunk at my own parties and had to stagger vomiting episodes in between saying goodbye to guests. But this was in a cab! I was right behind him! He thanked me for not soiling the upholstery. “Anytime,” I said.
After the MRI, and even before it, I had a feeling in my gut – and I mean this metaphorically, you’ll be so relieved to hear – that my brain was just fine. The weird sudden onset of symptoms did not jibe with the way things went down last year. Plus, it was NOT GOING TO BE COOL to have a relapse on the exact one year anniversary of the tumors showing up in the first place. It would have been almost suspiciously shitty.
Of course, I know better than to expect things to be rosy and well forever. I’ve been invaded, the opponent is formidable and is determined to get the upper hand. But for now – I get some peace of mind about my brain. Next month, my CT scan. Then, bike ride. Then, Italy. I’m living for these things. For now.
After getting my good scan results this morning, and taking a quickie neurological exam that found me just fine, I visited my primary care doctor, Dr S, about my condition. She has pretty much now seen it all, from me. Pregnancy scare (negative, and my thyroid is fine), multiple pneumonias, weird recurrent eczema in my ear… and every time I come see her, a new update for my cancer ledger, because Dr P and her staff are amazing, but they don’t do a great job of keeping Dr S up to date. But Dr S is pretty unflappable, in the face of all the weird shit I bring up.
Today she checked my pulse three different ways – lying down, sitting up, standing. Then checked my glands, ears, tongue and throat. She checked my visual tracking. And then, she had me turn my head sharply to one side and lie down – which as of yesterday, even this morning, would not have felt good. It was fine! She had me repeat this facing the other way. Again, no problem. She decided that I didn’t have vertigo, but rather that I am dehydrated. She based this on the difference in my resting pulse lying down, sitting, and standing. I’d already been sipping Gatorade, because I hadn’t had lunch and it was nearly 2 p.m. and a terrific headache loomed. So I need to drink more water. And eat more salt. And then drink more water.
But because this is Brooklyn, she had another trick up her sleeve as well. In addition to being an M.D., Dr S has studied Chinese and alternative medicine. She once did acupuncture on me, to improve my “lung chi” after a pneumonia. And she has recommended homeopathy when she thinks it will work, but always with a very light touch and making no promises. She suggests it as an afterthought, sort of like when Columbo comes back in when you thought he was leaving, with “oh, just one more thing…”
Today, Dr S needed to know if my dizziness has had me wanting to be under a warm blanket, or wanting a blast of cool wind on my face, “like Leo DiCaprio in Titanic,” she actually did say. I’ve definitely been under the blanket a lot, and I definitely can’t stand DiCaprio. It turns out there are two different homeopathic remedies for dizziness, but you have to have the right one based on your preference. So, after leaving Dr S, I stopped by our awesome local drugstore and plucked a vial of Cocculus indicus pellets off the shelf. Five pellets under the tongue, three times a day. (Saying an incantation is optional.) Here’s hoping for a speedy return of my equilibrium.